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Q&A: As Pulse memorial falters, Las Vegas leader shares lessons in commemorating tragedy

Amanda Rabines, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

After nearly four years in the design phase, plans for a memorial to honor the lives of those killed in the Las Vegas Strip massacre in October 2017—the nation’s deadliest mass shooting— have been approved by the Clark County commission earlier this month.

Meanwhile, plans for a memorial for the nation’s second-deadliest mass shooting, the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, are wavering following a series of setbacks.

The onePULSE Foundation, the nonprofit formed to build a memorial, said it will not be building at the nightclub property, where 49 people were killed in 2016, after one of its owners refused to donate the site. And earlier this year, previously approved plans to build an architecturally-acclaimed museum and memorial in remembrance of the victims fell through for being too expensive.

From its inception, onePULSE has operated independently of local governments and largely outside public view, and was run until recently by Barbara Poma, the nightclub’s owner who has faced scrutiny and litigation from survivors of the mass shooting. Poma exited the foundation in April.

In Clark County, government officials are in the process of selecting a nonprofit that will oversee the construction and maintenance of the memorial project and MGM Resorts International has donated two acres on the northeast corner of the concert site off Reno Avenue and Giles Street where the killings occurred.

While the One October Memorial Committee worked to design a memorial for the Las Vegas Strip massacre, people affected by the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival were referred to the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center for support.


The center, which is staffed by state and county officials as well as other community partners, serves as a resource and referral center and helps impacted people with things such as legal aid and insurance issues.

A partnership of local governments and the United Way offered similar services to Pulse survivors at the Orlando United Assistance Center.

But the $8.5 million federal grant used by OUAC to pay for staff and free services ran out in late 2019 and Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed funding for the program in 2020. In addition, the OneOrlando Fund, which distributed more than $30 million to survivors and victims of the shooting, closed in 2017.

In 2021, with the city’s ongoing support, OUAC became part of The Center Orlando and still assists people affected by Pulse. On its website, the organization says it can assist with problems relating to mental and physical health, family relationships, financial difficulties and immigration or legal issues, among others.


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